In Carmel, every Whitsunday (Pentecost) we did something that I looked forward to every year. During the Divine Office before Mass a designated sister would go around to each nun and hold out a fancy glass plate; the plate had little hand crafted paper doves and on each of it’s wings were written out one gift of the Holy Ghost and one of the twelve fruits. These gifts were to truly be ours for that year until the following Pentecost Sunday when we would receive new ones. We would each pull at “random”, but of course…nothing is random with God.
When I first entered Carmel I remember being utterly taken aback by some of our sublime customs that enkindled in my heart a deeper love and understanding on how the Holy Trinity and Our Dear Lady work in ALL things; even the smallest situations, that to us may appear insufficient. For instance, we needed permission to do even something as small as brushing our teeth or trimming our nails. What is the purpose of that one may ask- why would Our Lord possibly care about something like that? I came to find that by getting into the habit of getting God’s blessing starting with the little things: brushing my teeth- which may seem “unimportant”- actually teaches the soul to go to the Creator for everything, to seek His will in all that we do, not just the big events in our lives or a crisis. If we also lost an item in Carmel we would wait three days until approaching our superiors with the issue. In those three days we would pray to the Holy Ghost to find the object if it was His will and the power of silence taught me to go to God FIRST before seeking human help; often times I would find the missing article before the third day. As soon as we discover that the Holy Ghost is constantly at work in our soul NOTHING will appear “too small”.
We simply cannot do any of this “habit making” by ourselves; we need the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the guidance of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A few other memorable customs we would do throughout the year was every month we would go up to Mother Prioress to kneel down and receive our “saint of the month”, which also included some type of virtue or mortification we would put into practice for the upcoming four weeks. We also had our “saint of the year”. I learned a very valuable lesson through the saints of the year, saints of the month and the gifts of the Holy Ghost- one thing: Divine Providence. Whatever saint I received was the one chosen by God and Our Lady in particular to help me on my path to union with the Beloved. There were times I was absolutely stunned when I saw what card I received; this proved that it was truly the Holy Ghost in control of even my saint of the month. Nothing, absolutely nothing is coincidence with Our Lord. It was also quite amusing when the gifts or fruits I would receive were the virtues I was severely lacking, but I would smile because even though I felt like a lost cause, God was pursuing me and did not give up on His lowly spouse.
I just want to urge you today (if you have the time to spare) to get nineteen notecards out and write on each individual card the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost and the twelve fruits. Put the gifts in one pile and the fruits in another. Pull, “at random” one from each pile and pray that God may give you the gifts that will help you reach a higher perfection and intimacy with Him this year. Study them and thank God for these precious treasures He bestows through the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. I promise that you will not be disappointed, Jesus and Mary only want you to come to Them for all your needs and to show you how generous those Two Hearts really are. When we hear that famous expression “the devil works in the details”, that is for one simple reason- even more so does God work in the details in ways we never fathomed. Just as the Holy Ghost in union with the Immaculate Conception created a God-Man, so too do They want to create a place of splendor and beauty in our own souls. We have only one thing to do: to love God with the Heart of Mary so intensely and generously that our own hearts are set on fire- some saints took this so seriously that their hearts were literally set on fire (Our Holy Mother Teresa of Jesus to name one).
Fire symbolizes the Holy Ghost. Think of the liturgical fire used in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass during this ancient and splendid Paschal season; the fire coming from that “Furnace” of Charity in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the fire burning forth from the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Pure Heart of Joseph. All of these examples are signs that the great Paraclete was evermore at work in these Three Hearts. Fire purifies, cauterizes and burns away even the slightest imperfections; only then can we love God properly. We can rest assured knowing that The Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph do not need purification, but the fire that is constantly inflamed in Their Hearts is a symbol of their burning love for God the Father. I will never forget when I was talking to a very holy friend; I usually agreed with him on most things regarding our treasured Catholic Faith, but the instance I speak of left a very powerful impression on me. He said he didn’t need to pray and see if it was God’s will to work on a certain task he was accomplishing in the Church; he was just going to do it. Two scenes came to mind: Our Lord saying He “came to do the will of My Father” and (my personal hero) Carmelite Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection said he would not even so much as pick up a piece of straw on the ground if it were not done for pure love of God. To know God, to love and serve Him we must desperately seek out His will in all we accomplish. His will must be our daily food.
It is written, not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
It is truly in the little things that we are made perfect. On this “White Sunday” let us begin anew and turn to “the Two” who will create in our souls a dwelling place for Christ Crucified: The Holy Ghost and His Faithful Spouse- Whom He is never separated from -The Queen of Apostles! God the Father purified the world through water during Noah’s time, God the Son purified the world with His Blood during His crucifixion; now only One remains- God the Holy Ghost purifying the world through fire. This is something we have yet to see, but I would suspect His time is approaching.